Were it not for its lacklustre production, Imaginary Television would be a terrific album of wit, wisdom and sparkling candour. As is, Graham Parker’s twentieth release – his fourth on the Bloodshot Records label – is more of a potentially strong album; which, due to the too overt dexterity of Messrs. Parker and Professor Louie Hurwitz’s rather lightweight production, is a mighty shame.
A shame, because Parker is still in the transfinite throes of incisive and idiosyncratic lyrical observation: all sticky, social, solipsistic, sneers; that in and of themselves, warrant far more of an imaginative (huge) kick in the balls like production.
In truth, where’s the slit-wrist (musical) angst of yore?
I’m not for a moment suggesting that Graham Parker return to the Jack Nitzsche like production of Squeezing Out Sparks (which many still consider to be his finest album). For the times, as well as the sounds, they most certainly are a changing - as they invariably must. But seeing as Parker still retains something of a tempestuous temperament - best described as a ménage a trois synthesis of such voluptuous vernaculars as Bruce Springsteen, John Osbourne and The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee - ought the musicality of these eleven tracks not to be of a similar, or at least, complimentary, persuasion?
Bruce Springsteen once said that the only band he’d pay to see live was Graham Parker and The Rumour, and I can understand why.
Where Parker enabled The Rumour to effervescently shine by way of great material, The Rumour infiltrated said material with a laudatory and emphatic aplomb. A vital quality, sorely lacking here.
To be sure, a great song is a great song, regardless of production. As such, the amusing ‘Bring Me A Heart Again,’ inventive ‘See Things My Way’ and perhaps strongest song on the album ‘’You’re Not Where You Think You Are,’ do indeed raise their collective heads above the glitz and the glucose.
Yet, were there to be more of a considered and underlying proliferation of musical spunk injected into the proceedings, Imaginary Television would be an altogether stronger, superior piece of work.
That the album is conceptual in design - hence the title - may have some bearing on its subliminal linearity. After all, when Parker quintessentially sings from within (‘You Can’t Be Too Strong,’ ‘Passion Is No Ordinary Word,’ ‘Long Stem Rose’) he’s at the vanguard of his game. Whereas when he sings from an imaginary perspective - which he does throughout many of these tracks - his star doesn’t shine quite so brightly.
A perfect example being his cover version of the ever-fantabulous Johnny Nash song ‘More Questions Than Answers.’ For as pleasant as it is, it’s nothing special. And as mentioned at the outset of this review, this is a mighty shame, because Graham Parker has always been special.